Substandard chargers for phones may prove deadly

CHINA - Finding a spare part for your mobile phone, or a new charger, could be a deadly enterprise.

We all lose everyday items that we take for granted but in the rush to find a replacement, safety may be compromised for convenience.

As an original charger may cost more than you bargained for, you might choose to buy a similar one for a much cheaper price, whether it is certified or not.

But this can be risky, experts have warned, following two recent accidents linked to mobile phones.

Wu Jiantong, 30, remains in a coma in a Beijing hospital after being electrocuted while charging his iPhone 4, according to Beijing Evening News.

"I had my back to him and suddenly I heard him shout. When I turned around, he was lying on the ground, twitching," his sister said.

The report also said that the charger Wu used was not the recommended one.

Earlier this month, Ma Ailun, a 23-year-old flight attendant from Xinjiang, was electrocuted when she picked up her iPhone 4 to answer a call while it was being charged.

Apple promised to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident.

But early indications seem to suggest that, as China Central Television footage showed, the charger Ma was using was not Apple approved.

"Substandard chargers are probably the cause," said Bill Yao, a technical manager from the information and communication technology department at Intertek.

Normally a charger works with a transformer, which lowers 220V to 5V, so 5-volt electricity is charged into the phone. This is a safety requirement as this voltage is not harmful to humans. However, direct contact with 220 volts can be fatal, he said.

Users should only buy certified spare parts for mobile phones despite the cost, he said.

The China Consumers' Association warned about the dangers in May.

"Uncertified mobile phone chargers are prevalent in the market, and most of them fail to meet safety standards," the association said.

Consumers should confirm mobile phone chargers are labelled with certification markers before buying them, the association suggested.

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